Roseville theater group presents ‘Next to Normal’

Pulitzer prize-winning rock musical a departure for Stand Out Talent
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Danny Gurwin flips through his large binder, looking over the script as his team of actors returns to a previous scene during rehearsals.

“Do I have a line here?” Jason Bortz asks his director.

Bortz is playing the role of the dad in the rock musical “Next to Normal,” which will run for two weekends beginning Friday, Jan. 21 at Tower Theater in Roseville. The musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010 and took home four Tony Awards after opening on Broadway in 2009.

“It’s brilliant. The emotions — you’ve got joy, you’ve got passion, you’ve got fear,” Jason Bortz says. “Most people have to go to San Francisco to see shows like this. It’s relevant, it’s redemptive, it’s brutal. We wanted to start 2012 with a show that let the public know we’re not limited.”

The show is a departure for Stand Out Talent, which formed in 2010 and moved into its historic downtown facility in May 2011 and has so far focused on family friendly offerings.

The organization’s last production was “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” which performed for a sold-out crowd over its closing weekend. That’s a far cry from “Next to Normal,” which tells the story of a mother struggling with bipolar disorder and the effects of her illness on her family.

“It’s a modern ‘Leave it to Beaver’ without the happy-go-lucky parts,” Gurwin says. “Like any family, it looks perfect from the outside, but inside there are broken dreams and hearts.”

The story involves drug abuse, a suicide attempt and mental disorders, and Stand Out Talent founder Jennifer Bortz suggests only mature audiences 13 and older attend.

“When (Jenn) said it’s ‘Next to Normal,’ my first thought was, is there an audience for this kind of show in Roseville?” Gurwin says. “She said, ‘It’s exactly the kind of audience we want to create.’ It’s a very brave move.”

The local production marks the regional debut for “Next to Normal,” which is the first musical to win the Pulitzer since “Rent” and only the eighth musical in history to earn the coveted honor. After Broadway, the show went to a touring company and then Music Theatre International released the rights.

“They fast-tracked it, and I jumped on it,” Jennifer Bortz says.

She plays the mom in the six-person cast and she solicited the help of her friend Gurwin to direct. His credits include appearing on Broadway in “The Full Monty” and “Little Women,” and on television shows “Law and Order” and “Desperate Housewives.”

Gurwin arrived from Los Angeles a couple weeks ago for the three-week rehearsal period. Playwright David Blanchard will lead the musical direction for the six-person live band.

“I’m excited for the challenge and to help my friend,” Gurwin says. “What I’ve found is a wealth of talent and I think the show is coming together in a really beautiful way.”

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.


Stand Out Talent presents “Next to Normal”
7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, Saturday, Jan. 21, Friday, Jan. 27 and Saturday, Jan. 28, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22 and Jan. 29.
Where: Tower Theater, 417 Vernon St. in Roseville
Cost: $20 general admission, $15 seniors, $10 students with I.D.
Info: Show not recommended for children under 13. For tickets, call (916) 837-7469 or visit